Colleen Coble Visits the Devil’s Playground

The west calls to me and always has, even before I became a writer. (Probably my Native American blood.) My career was born standing on the parade ground at Ft. Laramie, Wyoming. I’d gone there as part of the grieving process when my brother Randy was killed in a freak lightning accident. He adored Wyoming and I wanted to catch a glimpse of him through the land he loved. The idea for Where Leads the Heart, dropped into my head and became my first book, published in 1998.

I like to visit a setting before I write about it, so when I settled on the Big Bend area of Texas for the first book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Sanctuary, I scheduled a trip there. Dave and I flew into El Paso, rented a car, then drove for what seemed like forever.

I expected the cactus, the sand, the blue mountains in the distance, the sage, the Rio Grande, the heat, and the Big Sky Country. What I didn’t expect nearly made me turn tail and run.


I hate spiders. The first black thing crawling across the road didn’t get my attention. If I noticed at all, I thought it was a black rock. Then my husband said, “I think that’s a tarantula.” He got out of the car to look while I was screaming at him to get back inside in case the thing jumped on his leg. Or what if it managed to get inside the car somehow? He took a picture that I couldn’t bear to see, got back inside, then continued to drive. We saw at least a dozen more before we reached Big Bend National Park.

If it weren’t for the fact that the place was so doggone beautiful, I would have changed the setting. Did you know it’s one of the least visited national parks? That’s because it takes several hours to drive there from an airport, but it is gorgeous! It calls to something in my soul-in spite of the tarantulas. And no, you don’t have to worry about a tarantula chase in Lonestar Sanctuary. I wouldn’t survive the experience of writing it!

The Big Bend area is sometimes called the devil’s playground. The devil is supposed to be sealed up in a cave on the south bank of the Río Bravo del Norte (known on the U.S. side as the Rio Grande), except when he escapes on a swing hung between nearby mountains. Its stark beauty can be dangerous. There is no room for mistakes out there.

We all have reasons we love stories about the West. Here are mine below.

Men and women both are more independent and strong-and yet they know they need one another. The people know about resiliency and survival.

The West calls out the best in people. You HAVE to be on your toes because the land can kill you. When I read western fiction, it makes me believe I AM that strong and capable.  🙂

I see God in the beautiful landscape and it speaks to my soul.

Why do you love western stories? I’m going to give away two copies of Lonestar Sanctuary so make sure you comment!

And visit me on my website if you get a chance:

And watch for my Lonestar Secrets coming soon!

  Click on cover to order from Amazon

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34 thoughts on “Colleen Coble Visits the Devil’s Playground”

  1. Hi Colleen!
    I’ve seen tarantulas at the zoo but can’t imagine seeing them just walking around but your picture is beautiful. I love stories set in the west since I have always lived in the suburbs in some pretty crowded areas and these stories bring me to places in our country I have never seen where people live such different lives.

  2. Man vs wild: both scenery and people
    Good guys vs bad guys
    Beauty of the unknown: both the country side and people seeking their own destinies…

    FREEDOM… Escape… Pioneer spirit… BRAVERY

  3. Not a spider lover either,I like to read western because it takes me back to a time that I didnt get to live in,but feel as if I could,lol,seems that life was so much harder but simplier,sounds nutty I know but I love to go back in time an dream

  4. Hi Colleen! Welcome!

    I couldn’t agree with you more “Men and women both are more independent and strong-and yet they know they need one another. The people know about resiliency and survival.”

    People are more a part of the land and want to take care of it. It is part of their family.
    And I can’t forget about those cowboys! A definite valid reason to read westerns 🙂

  5. The integrity of the cowboys, the beauty and strength of the land which moves me, the wide open and amazing spaces, the natural and immense spreads, and the determination, courage and character of the people.

  6. My love affair with The West began when I was very young and The Westerns were popular. I watched them and was riveted to the image of the cowboy and the landscape. Many years later I considered myself very fortunate to have experienced this area and I love it even more, for the values and principles which the people lived by and their love of the land and its importance in their livelihood and their future.

  7. Hi Colleen,
    I love westerns because the stories can be so diverse and are based on loyalty, honor and trust. I love a strong heroine, but I also love an innocent naive one too. And we can see that in westerns without doubting credibility. We see strong heroes too, but I do love the Beta man too, who has definite hero qualities.

  8. Hi Colleen… Beautiful picture! My mother hates spiders with a passion… never actually saw a tarantula that was not in a cage… Would be kinda creepy seeing it walk across your path! 😀 Thanks for sharing… have a wonderful day!

  9. Colleen, what a wonderful thoughtful post and gorgeous pictures!

    I love the unsettled, endless sky and prairie of the Old West, the strong women and heroes who, like Charlene says, can definitely be Beta and still be all-around heroic men.

    I guess being raised on TV westerns in the West (all right, suburban L.A. but we did camp every summer in the high Sierras and Nevada) helped mold ms as a western reader and writer…but I’ve visited some other wondrous locales since including Rocky Peak in nearby Simi Valley, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona (esp. Sedona) and Nebraska so it’s all rubbed off.

    I’m so sorry you lost your brother! Best wishes for continued success with your books.

  10. The west means so much to me. I think that this is where I really started to live a new life. Instead of an urban environment which I found extremely difficult, I relocated to the Southwest where I found a new start. The lifestyle, limitless horizon, deep blue skies and the simplicity always appealed to me. Thanks for this great post today.

  11. i love the cowboys! also i think its just the whole hard working kind of people you see in those stories (not that you don’t in others)… and how loyal and trustworthy they are… did i mention that i love the cowboys? 😀

  12. I love everything about the West. The strong minded, courageous and determined women and men whose loyalty, bravery and ethics and morals make me proud. The men were men. I enjoyed reading about their lives, and the hardships which they could strive through. The West casts a spell upon me from which I cannot ever escape.

  13. Hi Colleen,

    Sorry I’m late with a big welcome to Petticoats and Pistols. We’re really glad to have you visit with us and share your love of westerns and Texas.

    Being a Texan I’m really partial to wide open spaces. The Big Bend area is beautiful and everyone should see it. But, my favorite part of the state is the Hill Country. I love those rolling hills and trees, especially in spring when the bluebonnets blanket the ground. It’s horse country at its best.

    Western romance fulfills a longing in me to live as people once did. The books bring it alive in a satisfying way. Cowboys are a special breed with their rugged strength and fierce loyalty. They’ll fight tooth and nail for a cause in which they believe.

    Thanks for coming to blog with us. I hope you come back again soon. Your book looks great! It would make a wonderful Christmas present for someone who reads. I’ll have to get it for myself.

  14. Hi Colleen. What a great post. Love the cover of Lonestar Sanctuary. It is the setting, and the strong heroes and heroines that draws me to western romances.

  15. I like stories written of the West because I grew up on a ranch in Colorado and I met the people that inhabited that starck and beautiful area. I learned about how hard they worked, how they had honor and spirit and loved what they did. I guess I can relate to those types of stories.

  16. Hi, Colleen,
    What beautiful photos and descriptions! I do love reading about the West–there are so many differently gorgeous landscapes and so many settings to reveal the inner beauty of the people who live there and the One who made it all.

  17. Hi, Colleen. I spent the day at a book signing. Had a great time, but I’m sorry not to have stopped in to say hi before this.

    Tarantulas huh? Eeeewwwww!

    You are very brave. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to you turning cowboy on me.

  18. I started reading my Dad’s westerns(Zane Gray) when I was around 9 years old. I have since become addicted to western romances.

  19. Hi Colleen! Wonderful post! I love the cover of your book! I grew up watching John Wayne movies with my Dad. I’ve loved Westerns ever since. Thanks for blogging here today!

  20. Colleen, I love western because while the life was hard the people perservered and ovecame while living with a freedom we can only read about.

    Tarantulas rate right up there with snakes in my mind. Don’t like either one.

    Looking forward to enjoying “Lonestar Sanctuary”

  21. Hi Colleen, I love to read western romance books and always have. I think your book sounds like a great read.

    I am really sorry to here about your brother. My father passed due to a freak accident, those thing happen so suddenly. You just never know.

  22. Hi Colleen! I love horses so when I was young I would watch anything with horses in it. I’ve been hooked on westerns ever since!

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